news flash: i come from regular old folks. so do you. and their genealogy is just as important as your kings, queens, patriots, and all that other stuff. do the hard work for the living too. it’s worth it.
this week has been something else i tell you. i had the privilege of presenting at the Midwestern African American Genealogical Institute in st. louis, mo where i taught a class on presenting genealogical documentation professionally. i had a great session and my class was the bees knees. this alone would be a great highlight to my week, right?
since it was my first time to the lou, i had a lot of visits i had to make with family. one of those was to see my beautiful niece. i think i nearly lost my voice laughing with her and my cousin in law road buddy. lol additionally, i had the chance to meet my aunts, uncles, and first cousins for the first time.
ok. i know you’re probably like “what do you mean ‘for the first time?” i’m serious. lol yes, i’m a pro genealogist, i’ve gone back to africa with a family line and visited our country of origin twice. yes, i’ve traced the slave ownership of my ancestors. i’ve been back to our family homestead, stood on the land, reflected and done the “glance into the sky genealogy tv show gaze.” lol but until this week, i had never met my aunts, uncles, or first cousins through my maternal grandfather in person. having all of these accomplishments doesn’t make me or my family immune to the ups, the downs, the twists, and the turns called life.
i’m sure every african american genealogy researcher has heard the following applied to someone in their family or another one; they…
a) “got run out of town because they were white” or
b) “left town with a white person they were in love with” or
c) “got killed by a white person because the white person wanted (insert valued possession)” or
d) “killed a white person, left town, and changed their name and we can’t find them” or
e) “fill in the blank scandalous story about a white person and black person.”
i am willing to bet money that many of those same researchers have spent hours if not days or even years researching one of the claims made in a-e. why do i bring this up? because as much time as we (as in researchers – pro or novice) have spent investigating these “scandalous” claims, have we invested in our relationships and knowledge of our tangible and living family?
tangible living family? yes. those that we can visit, call, text, email, facebook, tweet; those we know well or can get to know well or have meaningful relationships with?. or, are we so focused on dates, locations, and putting together the next book or blog post that we don’t care to forge meaningful relationships with people that are right under our noses? have we allowed a scandal or secret or two keep us from really getting to know a family member? have we put on our genealogy super cape and obtained hard to get docs for those same family members but we haven’t been brave enough to engage them in tough conversations regarding the thing that transpired to create those hard to get docs?
of course there is a fine line between being nosy and being a genealogist or family historian. lol but what if those conversations could give you answers to questions you never thought you’d get the answers to? what if those conversations could heal decades old wounds that may have formed based on important facts not being shared or known? wouldn’t it be worth the risk to just reach out?
early in my research days, i decided something that has made me virtually fearless in situations like the ones I’m talking about. you know, the ones where you WANT to call that family member but everybody has said “don’t even bother picking up the phone, they ain’t sayin’ nothin.”
here’s my mantra: the only genealogical luggage i will carry will have the initials NS. i can’t be held responsible for anything that happened before my 18th birthday because either i was not alive or was legally a child and had no influence on the situation.
this applies to my immediate family, extended family, all of them. why should i allow someone else’s drama to affect giving a complete genealogical picture for the generations that live now or in the future? this mantra is why our family research team has been so successful, and it’s the reason why i now know where these eyes in my head come from and where i get my 50-11 job titles from. lol until this week, i had never seen a picture of my maternal grandfather. breaking through the living brick wall is why i now have pictures of all of my great grandparents (see below) too.
jump in. take a risk. your life will be fulfilled and the person who takes over after you’re done will thank you when it’s time to pass your files on. i guarantee it. 🙂